Cinema Picks for Friday 26th January

Another packed week for cinema releases in the UK but do watch out for an inspired performance from an aging legend and a disturbing low budget horror.

Blood Diamond is set amidst the conflict in Sierra Leone in the late 90s this drama sees Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a mercenary turned diamond smuggler,  cross paths with a Mende fisherman (Djimon Honsou) who has come across – and hidden – a large diamond before being imprisoned as a rebel. Along with a US journalist (Jennifer Connelly) they are all drawn into the murky world of the African diamond trade. Although director Ed Zwick stages the action with impressive aplomb and the performances are good (especially Honsou) it ultimately falls short in its attempts to explore the issue of conflict diamonds and corruption in Africa.

Bobby features a large ensemble cast (featuring Anthony Hopkins, Martin Sheen, Sharon Stone, William H Macy, Joshua Jackson, Heather Graham, Demi Moore, Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood) and is a fictional account of the lives of several people present in the hotel where the late Robert F. Kennedy, was shot on June 6, 1968. Although it has its flaws director Emilio Estevez has constructed a drama that keeps you watching and the use of footage from the time is surprisingly powerful.

Venus is about an old English actor (Peter O’Toole) who forms a bond with an unruly young woman who he finds strangely attractive despite being so different to her. Although this sounds like an inverted remake of Harold and Maude, it is actually a highly amusing and shrewdly observed film about getting old. O’Toole gives his best performance in years and newcomer Jodie Whittaker proves a feisty foil for the veteran star. Vanessa Redgrave and Leslie Phillips offer solid – and often touching – support. Director Roger Michell keeps things ticking along nicely and there are some standout comic scenes.

The Fountain is a hugely ambitious love story set across three different time periods and sees Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz play two different sets of characters. A Spanish Conquistador named Tomas, a present day oncologist and a futuristic astronaut all try to find the find the key to eternal life. Although there are certain things here to admire (not least Clint Mansell’s mournful score) this long delayed project from writer-director Darren Aronofsky is a major disappointment. The heavy themes are never properly developed and visually the film never opens out, so the actors are left all at sea with an undercooked script and some weird concepts.

Them features a French couple who stay in a Romanian country house and they find themselves stalked by some locals. A low budget but highly effective horror that avoids the usual pitfalls of the genre. More in the vein of Assault on Precinct 13 or Deliverance it has moments of genuine terror that easily surpasses the schlock of more recent mainstream fare. The fact that it is based on a real life tale about an Austrian couple in the Czech Republic makes it all the more disturbing.

FILMS OF THE WEEK: Venus and Them

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